New York Jets draft preview: Linebacker

This is the seventh installment of our position-by-position breakdown as we head to the April 30 draft:

Position: Linebacker

Current personnel: Inside -- David Harris (signed through 2017), Demario Davis (2015), Joe Mays (2015), Erin Henderson (2015), Jamari Lattimore (2015), Mario Harvey (2015), Chris Young (2017). Outside -- Quinton Coples (2016), Calvin Pace (2015), Jason Babin (2015), Trevor Reilly (2017), IK Enemkpali (2017).

Projected starters: Harris, Davis, Coples and Pace.

Departures: Nick Bellore (free agent, San Francisco 49ers), Jermaine Cunningham (free agent).

Total cap charge: $19.37 million (Ranking: 11th).

Scouting report: In free agency, the Jets added a new player at every position except outside linebacker. It's not hard to read the handwriting on the wall: That will be one of their priorities in the draft. They retained graybeards Pace and Babin, picking up their options at a minimal cost, but they're strictly hold-the-fort guys. Coples was the "rush" linebacker in Rex Ryan's scheme, but he actually lined up as a defensive end on 456 of his 665 snaps. In fact, he recorded six of his career-high 6.5 sacks as a down lineman. At any rate, Coples is a power rusher, not a speed rusher -- and the Jets need speed on the edges in Todd Bowles' 3-4 scheme. It's the last piece to the defensive puzzle. Inside, they're fine with Harris and Davis, but Davis is entering the final year of his contract.

The last linebacker drafted: The Jets drafted two last year -- Enemkpali (sixth round) and Reilly (seventh). Neither player saw much action.

Potential targets: The Jets hosted the top edge rushers for pre-draft visits -- Dante Fowler Jr. (Florida), Shane Ray (Missouri), Vic Beasley (Clemson), Randy Gregory (Nebraska) and Bud Dupree (Kentucky). They also brought in second-round prospects Eli Harold (Virginia) and Nate Orchard (Utah). This is considered a strong draft for edge rushers, but red flags have emerged in recent weeks. Ray has a toe issue that may or may not require surgery and Gregory tested positive for marijuana at the scouting combine. Once considered strong options for the Jets, Ray and Gregory fall into the "risk" category.

Beasley is one of the best athletes in the draft, but he's undersized for Bowles' scheme. Some scouts wonder if Beasley, who played last season under 230 pounds, can maintain his current weight (246) and be strong enough to play the run on first and second down. Fowler would be a nice fit, but likely will be chosen in the top five. The Jets would be lucky if he falls to them. Dupree is a freakish size/speed prospect, but he's a better athlete than football player at this stage of his development. Beware the workout warriors.

Bottom line: It wouldn't be a surprise if the Jets wait until the second round to address the need. Another player to watch is inside linebacker Benardrick McKinney (Mississippi State), who visited last week. The Jets have spent a lot of time with him on and off campus. He's considered a second-round prospect.

Need rating (scale of 1 to 10): OLB -- 10. ILB -- 3.